Women’s Golf in St Andrews

Elizabeth Andrews
Friday 21 August 2020

Simson Golf Scrapbook (ms30354-3) full size

We are launching our new-look blog with a story about an old favourite here in St Andrews – golf. The blog has been migrated to a new format to bring it into line with other University blogs. Don’t worry though – all the previous content, which we know is much used and referred to as a definitive source of information about our holdings and discoveries we have made in our wonderful collections, remains available.

Clipping from newspaper showing woman in black dress with golf clubIn one of our collections of family papers in the University Library’s Special Collections is a wonderful record of golf in St Andrews, in particular of women playing golf in St Andrews. Known as the Simson Golf Scrapbook (ms30354/3), the volume contains newspaper cuttings, drawings and early photographs of men and women playing golf, dating from around 1887 to 1958.

The scrapbook is part of the Simson family papers, a collection which includes correspondence, accounts, titles for estates in Fife and the South of England and India.

The Simson family were long established in Fife. George Simson (1767-1848), son of John Simson of Brunton and Blairstruie by his second wife, spent his youth in Scotland and was sent at the age of 14 to England to finish his education. In 1783 he set out for India as a clerk in the East India Company. George Simson left India to return to England around 1800. He had made a considerable fortune in India and assisted his step-brother, William, in his financial ventures and in the purchase of the Pitcorthie estate in Carnbee, Fife.

Photograph of man (Tom Morris) with white beard on golf course
Old Tom Morris (1821-1908), 4-times winner of the Open Championship

George’s second son, Henry Bruce, spent most of his life in the Indian Civil Service, rising to become a divisional judge. He married Margery Vincent in India in 1857 and they seem to have remained in India with their children until about 1880 when they took up residence at Brunton near Creich. The valentines that Henry sent to his wife have featured in a previous post. Henry died in 1893 by which time the estates had been sold and the family was living in St Andrews. It is one of their daughters, Mary C. Simson who is thought to have been the creator of this scrapbook.

The earliest entries in the volume refer to the golf competitions Mary Simson played as part of the St Andrews Ladies’ Golf Club. The club was formed in 1867 when a piece of ground to the north of the Swilcan Burn was laid out with a nine-hole course by Old Tom Morris. The club later became the St Andrews Ladies Putting Club, now called The Ladies Putting Club of St Andrews which still plays over the putting green known locally as the ‘Himalayas’.

Photograph of groups of women playing gold in long dresses and hats

The scrapbook highlights some of the early local stars of women’s golf, such as Miss J K Stewart and Miss Eleanor Bethune and competitions held at other golf courses, such as the Pau Ladies’ Golf Club, formed in 1877 and competitions at Torquay.

In addition to the images of women players, there are images of local figures such as W T Linkskill and golfers taking part in the Calcutta Cup competition in 1890.

This scrapbook is one of the gems of the Simson collection. We encourage you to have a look at the full album which has been digitised and is available for you to enjoy on our photographic collections site.

Simson scrapbook women playing golf

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